Meet the MBA Class of 2025: Isabella Todaro, Columbia Business School

Isabella Todaro

Columbia Business School

“A Rust Belt pragmatist dedicated to implementing climate solutions that work.”

Hometown: Chesterland, Ohio

Fun Fact About Yourself:  When I was in middle school, a couple of friends and I lobbied to have the spotted salamander designated as Ohio’s state amphibian in an effort to raise awareness about threatened wetlands.

Undergraduate School and Major: I studied at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service and earned a bachelor’s in Science, Technology and International Affairs (STIA) with a concentration in Energy and Environment

Most Recent Employer and Job Title: My last role was at Climate Neutral, where I was brought on as the third hire. My most recent role / title was Director and Head of Carbon Measurement.

What makes New York City such a great place to earn an MBA? Besides being my home for the last couple of years, New York was the best place for me to earn an MBA. Given my interest in climate tech – a non-traditional recruiting path – New York offered me a location where I could easily arrange coffee chats (and hopefully internships!) with leading climate tech firms and VCs. Knowing how comprehensive our climate transition will have to be, I understand that it will be critical to have an MBA network at the center of the financial world – professors, classmates, and alumni from whom I can learn to put capital to work to solve the climate crisis. And of course, New York is home to the best (biased?) and the most diverse range of food, art, and culture (I can’t resist a good book talk). I’m really looking forward to sharing everything the city has to offer with my new CBS friends!

Aside from your classmates and location, what was the key part of Columbia Business School’s MBA curriculum programming that led you to choose this business school and why was it so important to you? Maybe unsurprisingly, the Climate Change and Business Program was key to my decision to attend Columbia. It was important to me that the business school has dedicated resources to developing curricula specifically tailored to my interests and to solving such a key global issue. CBS offers many courses dedicated to climate change and business and I’m looking forward to taking advantage of experiential learning and fellowship opportunities focused on climate change.

I see CBS’s dedicated approach to climate change as a feature of its integration with the broader Columbia University system. I’m eager to study alongside graduate students from the Climate School, SIPA, and the Law School – all of which are leaders on climate change education in their own right.

What has been your first impression of the Columbia Business School MBA students and alumni you’ve met so far. Tell us your best CBS story so far. My CBS story begins with my interview. I met with a recent graduate who was encouraging of my goals and took plenty of time to share his CBS experience. I felt (maybe prematurely) welcomed into the community. Then, I was ultimately convinced to join the CBS class after Columbia Connect, an on-campus event for admitted students in the Spring. I met lots of prospective students from non-traditional MBA backgrounds like me and many peers who also want to dedicate their careers to the climate transition.

What course, club or activity excites you the most at Columbia Business School? I mean… CBS literally has a course called “Climate Tech.” I think I have to pick that.

Describe your biggest accomplishment in your career so far: When I joined Climate Neutral, I had to come up to speed on carbon accounting and software development so that I could launch our tool for carbon measurement. Economic I-O, life cycle assessment, Python – it was all new to me. I began pouring over the Greenhouse Gas Protocol, and background on our tool’s databases. I spent hours on the phone with academic experts and combed through myriad PDFs. I listened to the companies we were working with as they told me about how their supply chain data was kept.

As I came up to speed, I also gained an innate understanding of the carbon emissions around me. My mug was no longer a mug. It looked a lot like steel chromium and polypropylene — something like 6.4 kg of carbon dioxide emissions.

Today, I’m lucky enough to be counted as an expert in the field of corporate carbon measurement. Last year, I was invited to speak on 1A, a National Public Radio show broadcast across the US to more than 4.5 million listeners. It has been the accomplishment of my career to be able to teach others what I’ve learned. Spending the hard hours teaching myself carbon measurement, forming an opinion on the practice, has enabled me to succinctly represent complex concepts to volunteers that I’m training, sustainability leaders at companies and my teammates who looked to me to shape out our organizational thought leadership on the subject.

What do you hope to do after graduation? My dream is to be a climate tech entrepreneur. To prepare for my dream job, my plan (for now!) is to pursue two parallel paths at Columbia: product management-focused on climate and climate tech VC.

What other MBA programs did you apply to? Again – because of my interest in climate tech – I focused my MBA search on business schools in Europe and the UK where, because of advanced policy on climate, there is a mature VC and tech landscape. I was admitted to INSEAD, Oxford, Cambridge, and London Business School. I also applied to NYU in New York.

I was deciding between LBS and CBS and chose CBS for a couple of important reasons. First, though I would love to live in London for a couple of years, I would like my long-term career to be in the U.S. and likely in New York. I saw the CBS network as invaluable to building a career in New York. Then, Columbia emerged as the leading business school, in my assessment, for climate change education. The Columbia Climate School and the Climate Change and Business Program were very important to me.

Lastly, my decision became easy when I learned about the semester exchange program with LBS, which I plan to take advantage of during my time at CBS. I can study maybe even intern – but, importantly, explore the London climate tech landscape while being a CBS student.

What advice would you give to help potential applicants gain admission into Columbia Business School’s MBA program? It was ultimately helpful to me to really know why I was going back to get an MBA. I’ve applied to graduate school several times – I think this time it stuck because I had enough time and experience to really understand – in specifics – what I want to do in my career and what exactly I’m going back to school to do and learn. Plus, I finally had the confidence to say out loud (in my apps) that I’m interested in industries – tech, VC – that are historically very male, and not accessible to people with a policy and nonprofit background. So, my advice is to know what you want, to be specific, and to really go for it!

DON’T MISS: MEET COLUMBIA BUSINESS SCHOOL’S MBA CLASS OF 2025

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